"I don't know what else the Police, RACQ and other motoring organizations can do to make teenagers just SLOW DOWN"
Having fit the bracket of teenagers not so long ago, and being targeted by QLD police on numerous occasions because of the car I drive and the fact that I am not over 40, I thought that perhaps it was time someone really told QLD police (and other police departments in other states) how to slow down teenagers, plus it really annoys me when I read articles like this.
The sad thing is, the police never really ask those who count, they have continued to ignore all forms of communication from us here at Car Advice, much the same at QLD transport whom we had written to in protest of the new QLD rules and regulations which had generated such a massive buzz amongst our readers.
Of course, we are just a blog, we have no say in anything. We don't reflect the public opinion, after all we are not over 40 (well not all of us), and therefore we are either boring Camry drivers or Hoons. Being on the receiving end of countless speeding tickets myself, I have always felt relatively hostile towards our men in blue and I believe this feeling is mutual amongst those my age. Now don't frown with disgust, let me explain.
There is a massive problem on our roads, people speed all the time, be it teenagers, or older drivers, speeding happens all the time and thats a fact. The problem is that the police seem to continue to deny the reality of the situation. Speeding happens for so many reasons, most of the time it happens unknowingly, and sometimes it happens deliberately.
I can almost guarantee that every time there is a teenager killed in a car crash, the police immediately say "speed may have been a big factor" whilst, I like the fact that they use the word "may", it is still very much implied that yes, it was the excessive speed that killed the teenager, and practically no other factors. So what happens? We sink more money down the drain to get more speed cameras and more intuitive ways of trying to intimidate people into slowing down. Bigger fines, more points, waiting down a hill behind a tree with a speed gun, whatever you fancy, they have done it all.
And what does that get us? Absolutely nothing. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has some very useful figures when it comes to road crashes, you can find a huge amount of data and facts here. I wont go over all of it, but the evidence is relatively clear, whilst the number of road deaths has dropped considerably over the last 30 years, the deaths have plateaud in the last 5 or so years which means that the introduction of all these somewhat reactionary laws to limit speed and stop younger drivers driving faster cars has failed todo anything.
The main reasons deaths have come down so much and have now plateaud is due to better car safety, with SRS front/side air bags, electronic braking systems and many other modern day safety features, the chances of surviving a crash have improved significantly. NSW has the worse death toll for any state in Australia, and not suprisingly they have some of the toughest road rules, with fixed speed cameras ran by private companies to limits on the type of cars teenagers can drive. The NSW road death-toll for 2001-2004 is below
- 2001 : 524
- 2002 : 561
- 2003 : 539
- 2004 : 522
Where is the trend? There isn't one, there is no significant reduction in the death toll at all. QLD transport says that P platers are at a significantly higher risk of having a fatal road accident than open license holders, and they attribute this to speed and inexperience. So based on statistics, this is true, young drivers do tend to get themselves killed more often than their parents. So here is the $1million dollar question. What can they do about it?
Its relatively simple, if you tell a little kid they can't have the toy/chocolate they want, they will want it more and more and beg for it and cry. Its basic common sense psychology, whilst if you simply give them the toy, they will probably get bored of it and move on (albiet perhaps to bigger toys and the process of appeasement fails). Get the logic? Now can it apply to teenagers on the road? I think so.
In my experience with the police, I have had nothing but a bad attitude and aggressive manners, maybe its cause I am young, maybe its because I drive a turbo charged car, either way, its obvious that the police would rather have me either behind the wheel of a volvo or not driving at all.
Last year in NSW the state government banned P-platers from driving high-powered cars (turbo/supercharged) and from having more than one passenger if they committed a serious driving offence. Did it work? No! 39 people have died in P-plate crashes this year which is more than double the death toll of the same period in 2005. Limits are not the answer.
What makes a teenager drive 150km/hr in a 60 zone at 3am in the morning? Is it testosterone, is it due to his 4 mates in the car cheering him as he is trying to impress them? Is it just sheer stupidity? Or is it because he is street racing? It can be any of these things. But going 150km/hr in a 60 zone doesn't kill you, its when you lose control and go sideways into a tree/pole/car which kills you. Anyone who has ever lost control of their vehicle would know how scary it is, and once you have found the limit of your vehicle, there are very few occasions where you will be willing to push it that hard.
So here is an idea, whilst the state governments keep pushing new rules to make licensing harder and harder they fail to see the bigger picture. While many young first time drivers can do a reverse parallel park, not many can take a 45' degree corner at 120km an hour. Now I am not saying we should encourage this sort of behaviour on the road but these are the sorts of things that get people killed. The lack of experience to realize that some things are just impossible in most vehicles is an essential skill, far more important than a reverse parallel park.
Obviously putting all new drivers through an advanced driving course is expensive, I mean you'll need a proper skid pan, a race circuit, and the willingness of the driver to put their own car (or hire a car) on the track to find its limits. But all these things can be arranged, whats the point of teaching young drivers how to do a reverse park as part of the essential training when they are still unaware of their cars capabilities. Think about it, do you know the exact moment when your car loses traction around a corner?
It always amazes me how many people lose control of their cars in the wet, its as if they don't realize how much less grip is available in the wet. The government has continued to simply push these ideas away, ignoring them as they are too hard and too expensive to maintain and monitor, it has been shoved into the too hard basket, and so the failures continue while more and more inexperienced drivers die on the road.
Curiosity is a bitch, and finding the limits of your car is a curse on every young male (and some female) drivers - myself included, I have just been one of the lucky ones that has never had to experience the horrible consequences. So I've said a lot here, but what it really comes down to isn't blaming and fining young drivers for their lack of experience, but making sure that they get this experience in a safe environment where they can see and test the limits of their car and realize that once you cross the limits of your car, you put your life and the lives of all those around you in danger.
The entire licensing system needs to be scraped and redesigned. There needs to be some attention paid to the following facts:
- All drivers must go through an advanced driving course to learn the limits of their vehicle and also to realize the difference between AWD, FWD, RWD cars.
- Being able to reverse parallel park, do a three point turn and pass your license test doesn't make you a good driver.
- Passing your test in a Toyota Echo / Suzuki Swift doesn't mean you can drive a Toyota Landcruise or other 4WDs.
- Passing your test in a Toyota Echo / Suzuki Swift doesn't mean you can drive a Nissan Skyline GTST/GT-R (and any other performance car)
- Not all cars are the same, the stopping distance for old cars and new cars (specially sports cars) varies significantly, making most speed limits completely useless in most cases (I am taking into account reaction time).
- Every driver must redo their license every 5 years, there are countless "mature" drivers on the road who have forgotten how to drive.
- Those who wish to drive a 4WD/High performance car must conduct their licensing test in THAT vehicle.
- Police need to stop targeting teenagers simply because they are teenagers.
I beg the state transport ministers to please consider these suggestions and realize that there is no short term solution to save young people from their own curiosity and nature - and as with everything, education is the key.